Saturday, November 22, 2008

Playing Restaurant

My 4 year old and I have started a new game called Restaurant. He thinks it is great fun. We pretend that the kitchen is a restaurant. I put a tablecloth on the table and candles and the crystal salt and pepper shakers. Everyone gets a plate, a spoon, a fork, and a napkin. I put dessert on the table in the middle (as an incentive for good manners and eating enough dinner). I become hostess, waitress, cook, and dinner companion, but we get through dinner.

I "take" his order by giving him the day's special and I use really polite words and a nice voice and call him "sir". For example, "tonight sir, the special is baked chicken with rice and green beans." He in turn says, "oh yes, thank you I'll have that." Seriously, I'm not kidding.

We made up this game one morning at breakfast. I quickly found out that he would "pretend" to use his "company manners" and be nice to me if we played restaurant. Now we play it for breakfast and dinner. He does call me "Cooker" and starts all his requests with, "Hey Cooker?" but I just laugh and say, I'm sorry I only hear nice words in my restaurant. He follows that up with, "Hey please mommy can you get me...."

Last night we even made an attempt to use a fork and put our hands in our lap. It was really funny. He lasted about 2 bites and then couldn't manage the fork with one hand. But we practiced the whole meal. It turned out to be pretty fun.

At any rate, I'm going to ride this ride as long as it will last--probably 3 of 4 more days. It has been fun and a merciful release from the usual dinnertime attitude.

If anybody has any other mealtime suggestions to get the kids to behave let me know!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To write or to tell stories?

We are a writing kind of family. We are also story-tellers. It seems like there is an itch in us to impart information to a crowd--willing or unwilling listeners--about ourselves. My sister writes beautiful songs. So does her husband. My dad has written two books. I write this blog. We all tell great stories. I can be quite entertaining when I choose to be, although I probably write better stories than I tell.
So lately I've been toying with the idea of putting some of these stories together in an attempt to create something larger, like a book of short stories, or maybe one of those Erma Bombeck styled books you find in the self-help section that are full of funny hahas with a nugget of info at the end. My problem is, I'm not sure I can string the stories into something that makes sense and I have no nuggets of info at the end. I also wonder if people who don't know me would find my stories funny. Part of the reason these little "Marla Mail" sketches are so entertaining is that the people I am emailing know me very well.
Maybe I should just stick to what I do best. Writing a funny email about the kids latest and greatest and telling on myself. That way I don't have to worry about punctuation, sentence structure, starting sentences with conjunctions or using commas appropriately. My grammar is terrible. I really have to work on it. I write like I speak--in run on sentences full of dashes, commas, double modals, and too many words.
Or maybe I'll create a character called Marvin. Marvin can be about 10. He's been sent to live with his Aunt, who we'll call Evangelina along with his sister Maria who's 7. Evangelina is a fun-loving 30 something with a compost pile and a fainting goat in the backyard who lives in the middle of the city. Marvin and Maria have lost their parents to a freak snowboarding accident in Vail, CO. In the course of their new relationship with Evangelina they discover in true "Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe" fashion that she is rather "Lemony-snicket"ish. But their favorite part about her is that she tells great stories about her younger days with her sister (their sweet mother) Marguerite. While these stories will seem so "Laura Ingalls Wilder" to these technologically advanced children (they each have their own iPhone), there is a wholesomeness to the stories about a time gone by that fulfills some deep inner longing to connect with their mother and all things old-fashioned (i.e. pre-21st century). And with that I'll launch into a full disclosure about the crazy days of life, love and the pursuit of happiness that were my youth.
I'll see you on the first page of chapter one...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Peaceful Soul is a Free Soul

This is my last week of study on forgiveness. I am in a place where I can move forward in my journey of forgiveness--and it is a journey. "Everything [about forgiveness] depends on the spirit we bring to the act." (p. 71) We can't expect to feel good about forgiving someone, unless we mean it. And we can't really forgive someone unless we do it for the right reasons and in the right way. Forgiveness is not cheap grace.

One of the most important lessons for me on my journey is this: The "great benefit in being able to forgive [is that] it releases us from carrying the corrosive effects of anger and bitterness in our own souls and peace of soul is not an insignificant matter. Forgiveness also empowers us allowing us to reassert our choice to become whole instead of merely accepting the diminishment of our wounds." (p.75) Those are some powerful words. I found a new way to look at forgiveness over the last several weeks, even in the face of forgiveness without reconciliation or forgiveness without acknowledgment of wrongdoing. I can CHOOSE peace of soul over a life of diminished outlook. I make that choice. What is done to me doesn't make that choice for me.

The following quote slayed me when I read it and the words have stayed with me over several days now. Lewis Smedes wrote, "Only a free person can live with an uneven score." Am I free enough to live a life of true forgiveness, ready to reconcile if and when that moment comes with every person? Jesus showed us the most uneven score of all--his personal sacrifice for all who came before and after Him. His choice to accept "the power of transformation and promise of God's redemption for the other person" (p. 76) illumines a way of grace that puts me at a loss for words. It's time fore me to hear the call. How free can I be?

Quoted material comes from Thompson, Marjorie J. Companions in Christ, the Way of Forgiveness. August, 2002, pp. 71-76.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Before you think I believe we have no social obligations as a nation or community by my comments yesterday (which surely you wouldn't), allow me the opportunity to say my peace on public education.
I am a product of the public K-12 school system. I receive an undergraduate degree from a private institution. I earned a Master's degree at a public institution. Now I go in and out of the work force as a contractor in the public school system providing speech-language services. No I have never taught an entire classroom of children and no my children are not yet school-aged. We send them to preschool and daycare in local church sponsored settings, but soon they will go to kindergarten at the local elementary school. I say all this so you have an idea what my experience is with public school in general. I have not studied the history of public education, nor do I know very much about its origins other than what I have read or been told by others in my life.
I think for the most part, people in the US have chosen to believe education is a privilege we want our children to have. As a nation, we collectively believe it is in our best interest to provide and pay for a system that educates all children with minimal cost to them. I absolutely and unequivocally agree. We do our nation a great disservice if we do not give our citizens access to learning.
Maybe public education started out as a social experiment, I don't know. I do know that for as long as there have been written documents in the United States, people have valued what education provides. People who can read, write, and "figure" are far less likely to be taken advantage of and have a far greater chance at participating in our literate society that bases most of its communicative structure on the written word. I know there are many many ongoing debates out there about access, and what does "free" mean, and what does "appropriate" mean, and what does "equal" mean. I do not go there, for I have no answers for you.

But here is where I do go. It is not the responsibility of the public school system to teach your child respect for adults, respect for authority, respect for others, the value of education, or manners. That's your job as a parent. The development of these principles is certainly a worthy aim of education, but you cannot build on social principles that are absent to begin with.
We have removed, replaced, or reviled every possible avenue for teachers and principals to keep order in their school to the point where it is often impossible to teach. Now no one wants their child to be afraid of the teacher, but a healthy respect for rules and grown-ups is not a misguided principle of learning. There was a time growing up that I dreaded getting demerits, I lived in horror of going to the principal's office, and a note home to my parents was sure to get me in big big trouble. There was a time in this country when people built their own school building from donated materials on a donated piece of land, and then took up a collection to pay a teacher and boarded that teacher in various homes. The community was more than grateful that someone was willing to come and teach their children.
I feel that education has lost its most fervent supporters--parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors--community. I'm not blaming all or even some parents, I'm lamenting a loss of belief that education is important. Education has been free and accessible (for the most part) for a long time now and I think the value of it has been diminished. The idea of education has mutated from a privilege of learning to a kitchen sink where everything is going to be taken care of including teaching kids to mind their p's and q's. Our tax dollars go to provide buses to transport children, buildings, light, heat, air, teachers, staff, books, computers, extra supports for learning, libraries, special education, in many instances free lunch and free breakfast, before and after care. Why are we not demanding from our children who are the recipients of these services that we get our money's worth?
We are so busy complaining about all the problems in education today, we forget the first and most fundamental problem of all--family buy in to the importance of learning. The school can't be mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and uncle and aunt and cousin and older sibling. We've lost our sense of community investment in school. (There are many reasons for this, but that's another blog.) We have robbed our teachers of the belief that they will be supported in their efforts. We blame them when our children's education suffers, and yet we have fallen short in giving them what they need from us-- showing our own children that education is important through our presence and our practice.
Before we say, well, school just isn't for my child, or well that teacher just can't hold the class together, we should ask ourselves, have we done all we can to help? Do we ever ask ourselves what is our responsibility in this failing school? Much can be done to improve a situation that doesn't require money--faith in, interest in, involvement in, protection of, respect for, and a sense of ownership in a school community is invaluable. Money can't buy those things. You can throw all the tax dollars, fundraised dollars, and grant dollars you want at something, but if the underpinnings of that system are faulty, it's never going to work properly. I'm not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, before we get lost forever in a world of CYA paperwork, legal battles, and testing that doesn't test real knowledge, we should get a good grip on what else is missing in the equation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Election

So I've had a few questions---Marla, no comment on the election? You're usually so vocal? What happened? Well, I was in Disney World folks with limited access to email and the web. However, I suppose I shouldn't disappoint my friends who appear to be interested or at least tolerant of my opinions so I shall attempt to opine about this election.
I will go on the record and say I voted for McCain. He lost. I wasn't surprised. It isn't that I don't like Obama, I do. I think he will make a solid President. My concern is the runaway train the Democrats in/or recently elected to office are on. I am not sure when running roughshod over "rich" people became policy, especially since the latest rumor is that anyone who makes more than $100, 000 is now considered "uberwealthy" by Democrats. I am not sure when income redistribution became the only way to fix America's problems. I don't quite understand why conservative people are considered little better than the anti-Christ by the media. Apparently the airwaves are now "too conservative" so our freedom of speech is now in jeopardy, because it isn't left enough.
Our country currently has a love affair with entitlements--social security, education, etc. While I am not against these things in theory, I am concerned about the fact that these programs have created a sense of "my government owes me" among people in general. Your government doesn't owe you anything except protection from invasion and your rights as protected by the Constitution (you know haebeus corpus, freedom of religion, and so forth).
I am concerned that there are people out there who think Obama is going to make the government pay the house payment, send their kid to college, and put gas in the car. He is going to do none of those things. Even if he could, Obama never said that, and I dare say he doesn't believe that he should do any of those things. While Obama does have policy ideas that make me shake my head, I think he fundamentally believes in personal responsibility and personal freedom. But I am not sure exactly how Obama plans to reconcile a massive plan of redistribution of wealth with beliefs in personal responsibility. Having Joe Biden go on the record and call those of us opposed to their potential policies unpatriotic was not the best way to start.
So how do I feel about the election? Buy real estate, work for barter or trade, and hide your cash in your mattress otherwise what the stock market hasn't taken, this heavily Democratic Congress will. Do I think the country is going to fall apart? No. Do I think my rights are in danger? No. Do I think my country is in danger? Not more than it has been since 9/11. Do I think we are in danger of losing our capitalist society? We are flirting dangerously with some socialist ideas and anyone who thinks socialism really works should talk to a regular Joe from Canada or Europe. Do I think our health care system is going to be reformed? No. But we might lose a slew of really good doctors to income redistribution in the guise of payroll taxes, runaway malpractice insurance premiums, bigger cuts in the pitiful excuse for insurance reimbursement that already exists, and mandated health care policies that are made by people who don't provide health care.
On a totally different note (in other words, besides my pocketbook concerns), I am not unaffected by the historical significance of this election. I am elated that my country elected our first African-American President. "Never in my lifetime did I think it would happen," has been said over and over by people of my parent's generation. And let's not forget that Obama's biggest opponent in the primary was a female Senator! And the VP on the Republican ticket was a female Governor. On the congressional front, according to data provided by CAWP of Rutgers (, there will be 17 female Senators (a new record), 74 females in the House of Representatives, and one new female Governor (taking the total to 8). These numbers are not insignificant. Maybe someday the numbers will be even more encouraging (like 25 female senators, 217 female representatives, and 25 female governors).
Where exactly am I then? Well, I am waiting and seeing just like everybody else. Regardless of the state of the economy and the future of tax policy, I remain extremely hopeful and I have full confidence in our leaders. At the end of the day, we're all Americans. United we stand and divided we fall. I realize those are tired words at this point in the election cycle, but they are still true. As a nation, we cannot afford to cut off our nose to spite our face. My only request to those who have been elected, get over it (whether you won or lost a majority), and get on with governing.
And while you're at it, I have this ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) issue I need to speak with you about on therapy caps for services in part B of medicare....

The Magic of the Magical Kingdom

We just finished our first family trip to Disney World. Indulge me if you will by musing over my musings about the magical world of Mickey Mouse...
First of all where was Mickey mouse?? I only saw him two times--at a rope drop and at a parade. Apparently he has been replaced as the main squeeze by other characters like princesses for every conceivable storyline and other toys that have come to life? I don't know.
Secondly, why has Disney fallen prey to consumer clutches? After EVERY ride we went through a store selling CSC (also know as cheap shit from China). This disappointed me.
Thirdly, we had a super time. It truly was a family vacation. Even though the baby was stroller bound most of the time, there was enough for all of us to do together that no one felt left out.
Fourth, I was so happy to be reminded that all parents lose their temper. We just boil at different degrees. I felt vindicated in small part, by all the crying screaming tantrum throwing children and their bedraggled short-tempered parents surrounding us. I know it's horrible of me to write such a statement. But really, it's so helpful to realize you are not alone in the world.
Fifth, do not underestimate the power of a hotel pool. One with a poolside bar will increase family happiness considerably. An afternoon beer while watching the kids play in the splash pool is a magical thing regardless of where you are.
All in all, I'd say WDW is a fun vacation destination and I can see why people go back again and again. Who knows, maybe when I get around to unpacking, I'll find a bit of magic pixie dust in the bottom of the bag....